Love him or loathe him, Casey Stoner polarises popular opinion like no other rider of modern times. I fall firmly into the former camp, marvelling at his ability to spin the rear to steer the bike, using the inside curve to ride a have a wider exit. But it was his ability to ride a bike beyond its limit and utterly dominate it to make it comply to his will that really set him apart –he’s the only rider to master the notoriously recalcitrant Desmosedici, giving the Italian Factory team their only GP title in 2007. He’s a supremely gifted rider and the stats don’t lie – he’s a double world champion with 38 wins, 39 poles and 29 fastest laps under his belt.
And he’s just competed a two-day test at Motegi putting the 2015 Honda RC213V through its paces. As well as testing Marquez’s and Pedrosa’s 2015/16 settings, he also spent time assessing the current specification Bridgestone tyres and the 2016 Michelin tyres.
Stoner said: “It took some time to get used to riding the bike again after a year off but everything felt good and I got into the swing of things pretty quickly. Day one went pretty well, testing both Marc and Dani’s set-ups on the 2015 prototypes and analysing these side by side we found some interesting differences and useful data. We also did some engine development and some other new items Honda brought for this test.”
So why does this matter? Well, Marquez aside, Pedrosa, Bradl and Bautista have all had a disappointing season aboard their Factory Hondas with the bike struggling for grip in cold conditions. The RC213V is far from perfect, and Yamaha have made significant improvements to their YZR-M1. Honda know this and will be pulling out all the stops to turn the tide.
The 2014 season may be drawing to a close but the race for the 2015 season has already begun.